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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

POETS, COURTESANS, AND MONKS              137

courtesans was quite common, even among highly respected gentlemen.
In this period we find that not only Han Chi and Ouyang Shiu left
poems about courtesans, but even the austere premiers Fan Chungyen
and Szema Kuang wrote this type of sentimental poetry. The great
patriot general, Yo Fei, also wrote a poem concerning female singers
at a certain dinner.

Onfy the strict, puritanical neo-Confucianists, whose code of life was
summed up in the one word ching ("reverence", an equivalent of
"fear of God"), highly disapproved. They had a more stringent code
of morals, and a greater respect for the devil. Cheng Yi, who was Su
Tungpo's political enemy, used to warn Emperor Tsehtsung, when the
latter was only a child of twelve, about the lascivious charm of women.
The young child was so sick of such warnings that when he reached
eighteen, one woman alone convinced him that she was right and the
puritan was wrong. Once one of Cheng Yi's disciples wrote two lines
on his "dreaming soul going out of bounds" and visiting a woman in
his sleep, and Cheng Yi cried in horror: "Devil's talk! Devil's talk I"
Chu Shi, the great neo-Confucianist of the twelfth century, had the
same horror of the seductive power of women. Once a good man, Hu
Chuan, wrote two lines on the occasion of his pardon after ten years
of exile: "For once let me get drunk to celebrate the pardon, with a
girl's sweet dimpled face by my side." Chu Shi was moved to express
Jiimself as follows:

"Despite ten years' exile and tribulation,
The sight of a dimple caught him unaware.
Nothing should be more feared than this damnation.
How many lives are wrecked by woman's snare!"

In contrast, Su Tungpo took a more humorous view of sex. In his
Journal he wrote, later, at Huangchow:

"Yesterday I went to Ankuo Temple with chief magistrate Tang
Chuntsai and deputy magistrate Chang Kungkwei, and in the con-
versation we talked about the art of prolonging life. I said: 'All is
easy except continence.' Mr. Chang said: 'Su Wu was a great man.
He went to Mongolia, lived like a Mongolian, and went through
all hardships without a grumble. He was quite a philosopher,
wasn't he? Yet he could not help marrying a Mongolian woman
and having children by her. It must be, therefore, more difficult to
practice continence eveiiv in marriage. This thing is really difficult
to overcome.' We all laughed at the remark, I am putting this down
because there is a lot of sense in it."